A rapidly growing, mostly rural population spread over 80 islands means it is difficult to provide health services in Vanuatu. Cataract is still one of the major causes of blindness in Vanuatu. There is also a high rate of diabetic retinopathy, almost 60 percent of people with diabetes had this eye disease.
In 2001, we launched the country’s first national eye care programme. Prior to this, Vanuatu had only one eye clinic which was staffed solely by a part-time eye nurse using outdated equipment.
Over the next five years we provided practical training and placement for eye specialists throughout the country. Two surgical centres were established and four provincial hospitals were equipped with eye care clinics.
In 2015, the Ministry of Health agreed to assist us in working towards our goal of training three new eye doctors for the country by 2020. The following year we began training Dr Kasso who is expected to graduate in 2018. When he returns home he will become the nation's first eye doctor.
We've established a diabetic retinopathy programme in Port Vila, with visiting eye doctors working closely with local Foundation-trained eye nurses, to screen and treat diabetic retinopathy patients and our Pacific outreach team continues to visit Vanuatu to address urgent eye care needs.
Our Pacific outreach team spent four weeks in Vanuatu in 2017, providing both surgical eye care and diabetic retinopathy services. Altogether: